December 2002
Cape Town Tourism Boom

Cape Town and the Western Cape are experiencing their best ever tourist season, with close to 100 % occupancies reported for November. October occupancies of hotels and guest houses reached record levels as well. Most accommodation establishments in the area are fully booked for the Christmas and New Year period, and it may be impossible for many visitors to Cape Town to still find accommodation for late December and early January.

Forward bookings for January, February and March indicate that these will also be record tourism months.

The winter season in Cape Town was better than in many years, and a clear trend to longer stays in the city is evident, according to research commissioned by Cape Metropolitan Tourism. A growing proportion of domestic tourists visited Cape Town from Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. The domestic visitors were more likely to stay with friends and relatives, and this percentage grew to 45 %, followed by hotels. Both of these accommodation types are on an upward trend over winter. Accommodation at B & B's and Guest Houses appears to have dropped over the past winter. Domestic tourists are also far less likely to stay in the City Bowl and Atlantic Seaboard during winter, to the benefit of the South Peninsula and Tygerberg regions in Cape Town.

International tourists too were much more likely to live in a hotel in the last winter, but predominantly stayed in the City Bowl and Atlantic Seaboard. The winter tourists were far more likely to be from the United Kingdom, at the expense of Germany. The average stay in Cape Town by international visitors during winter is 9 days, with a growing proportion of the overall holiday time being spent in Cape Town. The average expenditure for the holiday in South Africa rose sharply to R 25 620, up by just under 50 % on the year before.

Cape Town has been showered with media accolades of late, and the latest feather in its cap is being selected as one of the 50 "Places to See Before You Die" by more than 20 000 BBC viewers. Cape Town was ranked fifth overall, and ahead of major tourist cities such as Paris, Sydney, New York, Rome and Rio de Janiero. Tourism sites, including the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Disneyland in Florida and New Zealand's South Island, ranked ahead of Cape Town. In addition, the city was voted by Conde Nast Traveler as the world's best value for money city, the third favourite overseas city for UK travellers by the London Observer, the best city in Africa by Travel & Leisure magazine, and selected as one of the top eight cultural centres of the world by Newsweek.

The region has grown its attractiveness, despite the recent strengthening Rand exchange rate and price increases. Prices of restaurant meals and accommodation rates are still seen to be affordable relative to those in Germany and the United Kingdom.

The number of German tourists to South Africa appears to have dropped back, with fewer tourists from Germany visiting the region in October and November, the most popular period for German visitors. Germans are postponing or curtailing their expenditure on travel, big ticket items and even basic consumer goods, as a result of the price increases they have experienced since the introduction of the Euro. They are also facing tax increases and many are out of pocket due to the flood damage earlier this year.

In the light of the popularity of Cape Town, a number of airlines have increased their flights to South Africa. Lufthansa has added five flights between Munich and Johannesburg, British Airways has added three extra flights between London and Cape Town, a new Belgian airline Sobelair has started operating between Brussels and Johannesburg, Virgin Atlantic has added three flights, Singapore Airlines is adding another flight, KLM has added one additional flight a week, and LTU is adding direct flights between Cape Town and Duesseldorf. Some airlines are seeing a flattening of the seasonality in Cape Town, and are considering retaining their additional flights during winter as well, according to the Weekend Argus.

Olympics for Africa

The Mother City is eager to bid once more for the Olympic Games, after having lost its bid to host the 2004 Olympic Games, reports the Cape Times.

This time the city is looking to bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, and has the support of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the provincial government of the Western Cape, and the mayor of Cape Town. The same 2004 Bid team is to be appointed to attempt to attract the Olympic Games to Africa for the first time ever in the history of the Games.

A bid by Cape Town or any other African city would have an edge, said the International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge in an interview with the Washington Post.

South Africa is hosting the Cricket World Cup in February 2003, and is bidding for the Soccer World Cup and the Commonwealth Games in 2010, and the Rugby World Cup in 2011, reports the Cape Argus.

Hermanus Beach gets the Blues

Grotto Beach in Hermanus has been awarded Blue Flag status, one of only eight beaches in South Africa and one of 2400 in the world to achieve this desired beach quality recognition, according to the Hermanus Times.

Awarded for a season at a time, the Blue Flag status denotes that Grotto Beach meets a recognised international level of excellence for cleanliness, safety and environmental friendliness.

Hermanus has experienced an excellent season to date, and its whale visitors have been the attraction for tourists from all over the world. Whale tourism contributes close to R 600 million to South Africa's economy. South Africa is one of the fastest growing whale-watching tourism countries in the world.

Research conducted by means of an aerial survey by Dr Peter Best, of the University of Pretoria's Mammal Research Institute, has shown that the whale population between Plettenberg Bay on the south east coast and Lambert's Bay on the west coast has grown by 20 % relative to last year, report the Cape Argus and Cape Times.

Over a seven day period Best and his colleagues counted 845 whales on the South African whale coast, of which 239 were cow and calf combinations. Every third year a bumper crop of new whales is born, and 2002 was estimated to be such a year. Dr Best estimates the total population of whales in South Africa at between 2500 and 3000 whales.

Best and his team photograph each whale they spot, and identify them by the unique wart-like callosoties on their heads. Some whale cows have borne up to eight calves, according to Dr Best's research.

A Blue Whale was spotted for the first time off Saldanha Bay, one of only an estimated 2000 in the world.

Two years ago a Blue Whale was also sighted off the West Coast, and may indicate that Blue Whales are recovering in South African waters. In the 1920's Blue Whales were hunted close to extinction.

Film studio earmarked for Cape Town

The booming film industry in Cape Town is expected to generate R 6 billion in revenue for the economy of the Cape, as Cape Town retains and grows its attractiveness as a haven for film and television producers. Its advantages are seen to lie in the favourable exchange rate, the diverse locations which can double as locations in the USA, France, Britain and other countries, the world-class film crews and availability of equipment.

The Western Cape provincial government is also calling for "expressions of interest" in building a film studio in Cape Town. The local film industry has lacked a studio for indoor shoots, an important requirement for Hollywood filmmaking. The lack of such a studio has deterred bigger film producers from coming to Cape Town, reports the Cape Times.

Cape Town's reputation as the film centre of South Africa has not gone unnoticed by Durban, and this city is setting up a Film Office, championed by its mayor Obed Mlaba, reports the Cape Argus. Film producer Anant Singh, based in Durban, has also announced the construction of a R 50 million international film studio, scheduled to open in 18 months. Durban's attractiveness will increase as Cape Town's film industry develops the reputation of becoming excessively expensive in respect of municipality-controlled sites and house rentals for stills shoots.

Big Bay big tourism development

A German consortium is planning to invest R 1 billion in a new tourism development on Big Bay, just north of Bloubergstrand. The development is earmarked to become a health and leisure playground which could consist of restaurants, village type shops, a boardwalk promenade, a health spa, and a hotel, reports the Weekend Argus.

Whale Cottages in the news !

Whale Cottage has been extremely fortunate to have received excellent coverage of late.

A full page article in the November issue of Sawubona , the SAA in-flight magazine, focused on the two Whale Cottages in Hermanus. Woman's Value sang the praises of Whale Cottage Camps Bay and Whale Cottage Bakoven, which hosted the finalists of their Cover-girl Competition recently. The trade publication HOSPITALITY profiled the Whale Cottage Guest House Portfolio in its latest issue, and refers to it as the "only branded guest house group so far in South Africa". The Sunday Times, in its series on "It's my B&B", also profiled the Whale Cottage Guest House Portfolio.

Internationally, too, Whale Cottage has achieved coverage in the authoritative German newspaper DIE ZEIT, with an accommodation recommendation of its Whale Cottage Bakoven.

Cape Town the Queerest City?

The gay community of Cape Town is looking to position the Mother City as the "Queerest City in the World", ahead of Sydney, Amsterdam, San Fransisco, and Miami.

Next week Mother City Queer Projects is hosting its largest ever annual gay party at The Castle, with the theme of "The Wedding". More than 5000 gay tourists from all over the world, as well as South Africans, are expected to attend.

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WhaleTales is a newsletter issued by the Whale Cottage Guest House Portfolio and is edited by Chris von Ulmenstein.
Christiane von Ulmenstein
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